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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore

Archive for August, 2011


Come on, guys. Seriously, get a freaking grip and grow up!

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

I want to make clear that today’s post does NOT apply to all men. It doesn’t even apply to most…I don’t think it does, anyway. But lately, I’ve been seeing way too may items in the news like these:

Officials say dad threw son off boat

SANTA ANA, Calif. – It was a pleasant afternoon aboard a sightseeing cruise around scenic Newport Harbor until the unthinkable happened: A man threw his crying 7-year-old son overboard during an argument in front of shocked passengers, authorities said.

Sloane Briles, 35, was taken into custody and charged with child endangerment and resisting arrest, according to Jim Amormino, Orange County sheriff’s spokesman.

“The father hit him several times and then threatened to throw him overboard if he didn’t stop crying,’’ Amormino said. “The crowd on the boat became very angry at the father for hitting the kid and extremely angry when he threw him overboard.’’

Authorities said Briles appeared to have been drinking. He was released Monday.

Briles, his girlfriend, and two sons from a previous marriage went on the Sunday afternoon cruise around Newport Harbor on a boat carrying 85 people. Briles began arguing with his girlfriend and his 7-year-old son, Amormino said, adding the child was not an expert swimmer.

The New York Daily News reported that the father’s girlfriend told the newspaper that he was only “roughhousing’’ with his son as he often does and regretted his “stupid’’ judgment.

Staff members on the tour boat said Briles told the boy he needed to toughen up, then threw him into the water 5 feet below, said Charlie Maas, who oversees the tour company.

“That could have been fatally dangerous,’’ he said.

Someone on the boat threw the boy a life ring, and he was safely rescued, uninjured.


Man accused of abandoning son arrested

LAKEVILLE, Minn. – A father accused of abandoning his 11-year-old son because his Minnesota home was in foreclosure has been arrested in a coastal town in California.

Steven Alexander Cross, 60, was arrested Monday afternoon in Cambria, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. A sheriff’s patrol deputy spotted Cross’s Ford Windstar van and arrested him without resistance, the department said.

Sheriff’s spokesman Rob Bryn told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Cross appeared to be living in his van and that authorities tracked him down after a tip that he was working in a deli in Cambria, some 30 miles north of San Luis Obispo.

Cross is wanted on a warrant for alleged gross misdemeanor child neglect.

The boy awoke at their Lakeville home July 18 to discover Cross had gone, leaving two letters: One said their home, some 25 miles south of Minneapolis, was going to be sold at a sheriff’s sale and instructed the boy to take his PlayStation and go to a neighbor’s house; the other asked the neighbors to take care of his son.

The child is now living with an aunt, according to the Star Tribune.

The 11-year-old told police he didn’t notice his father acting any differently on the night before he vanished. The boy also told a social worker he knew little about his family and that his father had told him his mother was dead. In one of the letters, Cross told his son his mother was still alive.

Cross, a licensed architect, was awarded legal custody of the boy in 2001, according to a warrant complaint seeking his arrest.


What kind of man throws his five-year-old into a river to toughen him up? And what kind of man simply walks out of his house leaving his eleven-year-old to fend for himself?

There was a time when I would have said these guys were mentally ill. Maybe these two are. But we see so many stories similar to these, about grown men abusing the women and children they supposedly care for, that it has to be something more. They can’t all belong in padded rooms.

Has it been this way throughout history? Probably so. Certainly, in many parts of the world, abuse of women and children are accepted ways of life.

But this is America. We are, supposedly civilized, yet the sheer volume of incidents like these would seem to belie that.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting we should be a nation of girlie-men. Far from it. Men should be as strong and tough and resourceful as possible and not afraid to use violence when it is called for to protect themselves, their families, and their community.

But beating on women and children, abandoning those you promised to protect and care for, tossing a kid overboard because you lost your temper? I’m not sure what to call males who do such things but men is not it.

All of us live with stress and disappointment and everything else life throws at us. But the men among us understand at abusing others isn’t going to compensate for our insecurities, or self-loathing, or low self-esteem, or anything else. It just makes us look like insecure, selfish, sadistic brutes.

What do you folks think about this? Has this kind of brutish behavior touched your life or the lives of people you know?

Were you one of these guys? If so, please help me understand what drove you to it and what you did to recover…if you have recovered.

And ladies, why in the world do you deign to spend time, much less get involved emotionally and sexually, with such males? With a universe of guys to choose from, why select from the bottom of the barrel?


Shutting down communications to stop a protest. Right or wrong?

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Earlier this month, San Francisco transportation authorities shut down communications to forestall a planned protest to disrupt subway service.

Many are questioning and even protesting the decision.

My question is, was the action right or wrong? Here’s the story. My thoughts on it follow.

Phone cutoff stirs free speech fight

Police in riot gear. Masked demonstrators ready for a confrontation. And then government forces shut down the wireless network to try to thwart plans for the “flash mob’’ protest coordinated by cellphones and Twitter.

It’s not a scene from the Arab Spring, but one from America’s beautiful city on the bay, San Francisco. It developed with a backdrop not of tanks and fires but of thousands of annoyed commuters trying to get to their trains.

Worried about a plan to disrupt service, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police this month decided to pull the plug on the system that allows underground cellphone service. It lasted only a few hours, but the decision continues to resonate.

Protests continue, this time about the decision to shut down the cellphones. Civil libertarians are alarmed. And First Amendment scholars are intrigued.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

I’m of two minds on this one.

On the one hand, I’m having a hard time faulting the transit cops for what they did. Their job is to keep the peace throughout the system so the system can function smoothly and get folks where they want to go. They could have called the city police, flooded stations with cops, and arrested anyone who started any disruption. Instead, they prevented the organizers of the protest from organizing it. No arrests, no damage, minimal, if any, disruption in service.

On the other hand, do we want government agencies to be able to shut down communications whenever citizens plan or start doing something they don’t like?

Perhaps the key here is that the network that permits cellphone service throughout the underground system is owned and maintained by the transit system. They apparently provide it as a convenience for riders. If budgets shrank, they could choose to eliminate it altogether.

Still, it’s the kind of action other government entities could point to to justify other, more wide spread disruptions in service.

If the Feds get wind of a massive protest planned to embarrass the President or some foreign dignitary, should they be able to order cellphone providers to turn off cell towers in and around Washington? Should they be able to electronically monitor cellphone communications and disconnect, then block re-connection between the owners of phones their software decides are planning to disrupt the peace? What about state, city, or town officials?

What do you think?

Did the San Francisco transit cops do good or bad?

Should the Feds or government at any level have the power to disrupt communications of any kind in a free society?


Are vouchers the answer to poorly performing schools?

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Indiana vouchers prompt thousands to change schools

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Weeks after Indiana began the nation’s broadest school voucher program, thousands of students have transferred from public to private schools, causing a spike in enrollment at some Catholic institutions that were only recently on the brink of closing for lack of pupils.

It’s a scenario public school advocates have long feared: Students fleeing local districts in large numbers, taking with them vital tax dollars that often end up at parochial schools. Opponents say the practice violates the separation of church and state.

In at least one district, public school principals have been pleading with parents not to move their children.

“The bottom line from our perspective is, when you cut through all the chaff, nobody can deny that public money is going to be taken from public schools, and they’re going to end up in private, mostly religious schools,” said Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association.

Click Here to read the whole article.

Is anyone really surprised that parents, given the opportunity, would choose to send their children to private schools where education, rather than social indoctrination, is the main focus?

And isn’t it time we put to rest this lie about the separation of church and state. It is clear to anyone who’s done even a modicum or research that the Founders did not intend to ban religion from public life. They sought only to prevent government from establishing an “official” religion, like the Church of England.”

Were Indiana or any state to mandate vouchers can only be used in Catholic schools, or Muslim schools, or Buddhist schools, then they’d be crossing the line.  But there is nothing even faintly unconstitutional about using vouchers to attend a religion-based school as long as the vouchers can be used for all such schools regardless of affiliation.

Who are these long-dead white guys?

The real problem for public school systems is that they’re scared to death of having to compete for students. They’ve had a virtual monopoly for so long, the left found it easy to infiltrate and take over systems nationwide and to slowly but surely dumb down the curriculum. Is there a public school anywhere in the United States that does anything more than pay lip service to The Bill of Rights and Constitution? How many high school graduates have even heard of The Federalist Papers much less read them?

If public schools want to retain students, they need to dump the teachers’ unions, dump the feel-good foolishness, and return to a system of classical education where children learn to read, to write, to do math, and, most importantly, how to think instead of what to think.

So…what do you think?

Is my characterization of public schools completely misguided

Are vouchers the answer? Or some other scheme?

And if vouchers are made available in your state, what will you do?


Are disasters good for the economy?

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

It seems like we hear it all the time. After every calamity, someone will opine something like “Well, at least it will create some jobs and help the economy.”

Evidently such folks didn’t pay attention in history class — if they even had a history class when they were in school — because French classical liberal theorist and political economist Claude Frédéric Bastiat belied that notion way back in the 1800s.

Jeff Jacoby talks about the notion in his column today.


Disaster isn’t a stimulus package

COLUMNISTS MAKE predictions at their peril, but I’ll go out on a limb: If Hurricane Irene turns out to have wrought the havoc some forecasters have predicted, some expert will quickly reassure us that all the destruction is good for the economy. “One of the most reliable results of any natural disaster,’’ remarks economist Russell Roberts, “is the spreading of bad economics.’’ And few fallacies are more enduring than the belief that disasters are really a net benefit to society, since the money spent on recovery stimulates new jobs and construction.

Consider the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan earlier this year – a catastrophe that killed more than 22,000 people, caused the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, and pitched the already sagging Japanese economy into recession. Three days after disaster struck, the Huffington Post published Nathan Gardels’s essay celebrating “The Silver Lining of Japan’s Quake.’’Urging his readers to “look past the devastation,’’ he rejoiced that “Mother Nature has accomplished what fiscal policy and the central bank could not.’’ Now the Japanese would have lots of bridges to build, “entire cities and regions’’ to reconstruct, and information networks to revamp.

This is supposed to be good for a nation's economy?

“The result of all the new wealth creation,’’ Gardels concluded, “will be money in the pockets of Japanese.’’

Japanese who survived, that is. The tens of thousands who died won’t be pocketing any new wealth. And all the money in the world won’t make whole the countless Japanese whose minds, bodies, or careers were permanently broken by the mayhem. True, trillions of yen will be spent to repair, rebuild, and restore. But equally true is that all those trillions will no longer be available for everything they would otherwise have been spent on. Whatever Japan may gain from the resources committed to reconstruction will never outweigh the value of everything lost through wanton destruction.

Yet the conviction that devastation is really a boon never seems to go out of fashion.

Click Here to read the rest of the column.

Toward the end of the column, Jeff includes a link to a video explaining Bastiat’s parable. For those who choose not to read the rest of the column, the three minute video is below.

Do you agree or disagree with Jacoby and Bastiat?

And given that “stimulus spending” clearly has not stimulated anything except more national debt,  what ideas do you have for reinvigorating our stagnant economy?

The Broken Window Fallacy


1957 vs. 2011: A Comparison – Fact or Fiction?

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Honestly, I couldn’t find anything in the news today I wanted to write about. Or maybe I  just didn’t look hard enough. Either way, this arrived in my email box yesterday. I’ve seen it before, but it certainly gets one thinking, especially if you were alive in 1957 as I was. Younger readers may think this an idealization of that period. Whether it is or is not, I can attest that the 1957 versions are true and were true well into the 1960s.

Read them over an tell us what you think. Fact or fiction? And which set of values do you think leads to a better future for the nation?


HIGH SCHOOL — 1957 vs. 2011

Scenario 1: Jack goes quail hunting before school and then pulls into the school parking lot with his shotgun in his truck’s gun rack.

1957 –  Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack’s shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.

2011 –  School goes into lock down, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario 2:Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.


1957 –  Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.

2011 –  Police called and SWAT team arrives — they arrest both Johnny and Mark.  They are both charged with assault and both expelled even though Johnny started it .

Scenario 3: Jeffrey will not be still in class, he disrupts other students.

1957 –  Jeffrey sent to the Principal’s office and given a good paddling by the Principal.  He then returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.

2011 –  Jeffrey is given huge doses of Ritalin.  He becomes a zombie. He is then tested for ADD. The family gets extra money (SSI) from the government because Jeffrey has a disability.

Scenario 4: Billy breaks a window in his neighbor’s car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

1957 –  Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college and becomes a successful businessman.

2011 –  Billy’s dad is arrested for child abuse,  Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang. The state psychologist is told by Billy’s sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy’s mom has an affair with the psychologist.

Scenario 5:Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.


1957 –  Mark shares his aspirin with the Principal out on the smoking dock .

2011 –  The police are called and Mark is expelled from school for drug violations. His car is then searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario 6: Pedro fails high school English.

1957 –  Pedro goes to summer school, passes English and goes to college.

2011 –  Pedro’s cause is taken up by state.  Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a  requirement for graduation is racist.  ACLU files class action lawsuit against the state school system and Pedro’s English teacher.  English is then banned from core curriculum. Pedro is given his diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a    living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario 7: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from the Fourth of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle and blows up a red ant  bed.

1957 –  Ants die.

2011   –  ATF, Homeland Security and the FBI are all called. Johnny is charged with domestic terrorism.  The FBI investigates his parents – and all siblings are removed from their home and all computers are confiscated.  Johnny’s dad is placed on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario 8: Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee.   He is found crying by his teacher, Mary.  Mary hugs him to comfort him.

1957  –   In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.

2011 –  Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.


Am I missing something or is most modern art pretentious garbage?

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner – Lorie.


I guess you could call me artistically challenged. You see, I just don’t “get” much of what passes for art these days.

Do you?

Compare Jackson Pollock’s The Moon-Woman to Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring

…and this modern sculpture by Rachel Harrison titled Alexander the Great with this classic statue of Alexander.

Do you see anything worthwhile in the Pollack painting or the Harrison sculpture? I don’t.

But follow the link to the larger Vermeer painting and you’ll see true talent and genius. Even through three-hundred-plus years of aging and wear you can see not only the beauty of his subject, but a piece of her soul in her eyes.

What about this collection of eight pieces by Sherrie Levine?

Does anything there move or inspire you?

Perhaps it takes something I just do not have to appreciate scribblings, pictures that look like the stuff my kids used to draw and paint on rainy days, and works that seem to have been inspired by bad mushrooms.

What do you folks think?

Can you help me understand what passes for art these days?

Or is it really, mostly, just pretentious garbage?



An inspiring speech. Why aren’t there more like it?

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

“The free enterprise system has lifted more people out of poverty than all the government anti-poverty programs combined”

Florida Senator Marco Rubio

“I know that it’s popular in my party to blame the President, the current President, but the truth is, the only thing this President has done is accelerate policies that were already in place and were doomed to fail. All he is doing through his policies is making the day or reckoning come faster. But was coming nonetheless. What we have now is not sustainable. The role of government and the role government plays now in America cannot be sustained the way it is.”

“The issue is not whether the role that government now plays in America will change. The question is how will it change. Will it change because we make the changes necessary? Or will it change because our creditors force us to make these changes?”

“Conservatism is not about leaving people behind. Conservatism is about allowing people to catch up.”

Those are a few of the many quotable moments from a speech Florida Senator Marco Rubio gave Tuesday at the Reagan Library.

It’s worth investing twenty-three minutes to listen to the whole thing.

If you’re a liberal, it will help you to better understand what conservatism and the Tea Party movement are all about and that what you’ve been fed by the media about both are the wild distortions of frightened sycophants.

And if you’re already a “Tea-bagger,” you’ll likely feel a little better about America and wonder why we don’t hear speeches like this every day from every member of Congress.

Or maybe I’m delusional.

Watch the video and then tell me what you think.


What was your first job? And what did you learn from it?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

My first job was working on a fruit truck. The owner’s name was Benny. I never knew his last name. I not sure any of his customers did. Everyone I knew, kid and adult alike always just called him “Benny the fruit man.”

It was the summer of 1963, I was twelve, and I made ten cents an hour, plus tips, and all the fruit I could eat. On a good week, I’d make five or six dollars, big money for a kid in my neighborhood back then.

I learned a lot from that job. The first thing I learned was if you want something, ask for it. I wanted the job, asked for it, and got it.

The second thing I learned was about moderation, and that you spend a lot of time in the bathroom when you eat too much fruit in one day.

Part of my job was to carry the bags of stuff that older ladies purchased to their front door and sometimes, if they lived on the second or third floor, up to their apartments. That part of the job taught me that if you’re nice to people and talk to them as you’re helping them, they’re much more likely to give you a dime instead of a nickel for a tip.

And watching and listening to Benny as he talked to customers, and often sold them more than they’d intended to buy, taught me some valuable sales techniques I’d not use until well over a decade later when I started selling real estate.

To this day, I’m not sure why Benny hired me that summer. He didn’t need help. All I can think of is that he decided to do a good deed and help a kid learn the value of work.

I don’t recall if I ever really thanked him when the summer was over, but I’ve never forgotten him, his old green truck with the roll-up sides and back, and the way he’d call out, “Whoa, peaches, bananas, nice, fresh corn” or something similar at every stop.

So…what was your first job, how old were you, and what, if anything, did you learn from it?


Are men really doing more chores around the house?

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Sharing the chores a work in progress
Surveys indicate that men have narrowed gap

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Newsflash: Men are now doing their share of chores.

That sound you hear is the sardonic laughter of a million women who aren’t buying it.

Despite new surveys showing that men and women are working nearly equal hours both inside and outside the home – and a recent Time magazine cover story trumpeting the findings – try to find a woman who agrees.

I’ll wait.

And while we’re waiting, here’s the story behind that headline.

According to new figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, working married women with children under 18 last year worked just 20 minutes more each day than men, or not quite 2 1/2 hours more a week (or about 5.5 days a year). For mothers of children under 6, the figure doubled, to five hours more a week.

The survey looked at both paid work (jobs) and unpaid work (the three Cs: cooking, cleaning, and child care).

But talk to women and you’ll find a vast gap between statistics and their perceptions of their lives.

“I’m cracking up. Only 20 minutes?’’ said Eve Upshaw, an elementary school teacher who lives in Wellington, Fla., with her husband and a teenage son and daughter.

An imbalance of about 20 hours a week sounds about right, said Upshaw, although she’s quick to say her husband, Bill, an insurance broker, is far more helpful than many of her friends’ husbands.

Click Here to read the rest of the article.

I have to admit that these days, Martha does the bulk of the household chores, mostly because she’s retired and has the time. Such was not always the case. When she was still working full-time as a nurse, much of the child-care and other chores fell to me, since I was either working from home or had flexible hours. Thinking back, it seems we pretty much went with the flow when it came to chores.

That said, I will admit that I’ve always considered bed-making to be the single most useless waste of time ever invented by society, which is why my bed-making was always limited to after changing the sheets and stuff.

Martha, on the other hand, was raised to believe an unmade bed was a crime not far short of mugging old ladies to steal their dentures. It took the better part of a decade…maybe two…but she eventually came around to my way of thinking, although if there’s even a chance company might show up, the beds have to be made despite the face that the bedrooms are upstairs and will never be seen by dinner guests. Apparently women have some sort of multi-dimensional sense that allows them to see or sense things through ceilings and somehow know if beds are made. Or not. Honestly, I don’t even try to understand it or argue with her. If making the bed makes her happy, who am I to say she should not?

What’s it like in your house?

Guys, what percentage of household chores do you do? And which ones?

Gals, what percentage and which of the of household chores does your guy do?

And who wants to bet that the guys will be claiming to do far more than the women will day they do?


About ‘inconsequential’ and childhood crushes.

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

There were two very different, very good columns in yesterday’s newspaper. One was an Op/Ed, the other a trip down memory lane.

First up is Jeff Jacoby, one of my favorite columnists. It’s a rare day indeed when I disagree with him. Yesterday was not a rare day. I think he was spot on. What do you think?

Second is a column for all you romantics out there. Do you remember your first crush? I remember mine. Her name was Linda and I, appropriately for someone not yet a teenager, worshiped her from afar.

Who was your first crush? Have you ever run into him or her. Would you even want to?


When ‘inconsequential’ means ‘better’

TO MANY liberals, Rick Perry’s audacious pledge to make Washington as “inconsequential in your life as I can’’ is tantamount to a pledge to bring back the Dark Ages.

Texas Governor Rick Perry

Commenting on Twitter as the Texas governor announced his presidential candidacy, longtime Washington journalist Howard Kurtz wondered: “Perry wants to make DC ‘inconsequential in your life.’ Does that include Medicare, Soc Sec, vets’ programs, air safety, FDA?’’ Former Bobby Kennedy aide Jeff Greenfield ran through a litany of Washington’s contributions to American life – from railroads, interstate highways, and the Hoover Dam to land-grant colleges, civil rights, and subsidized mortgages – and marveled at the depth of the right’s “disdain for all things Washington.’’

But it isn’t highways or veterans’ programs or minority voting rights that conservatives find so objectionable about Washington. When Perry speaks of making the nation’s capital “inconsequential,’’ he isn’t proposing to dismantle the Hoover Dam. Hard as it may be for liberals to accept, the Republican base isn’t motivated by blind loathing of the federal government, or by a nihilistic urge to wipe out the good that Washington has accomplished.

What conservatives believe, rather, is what America’s Founders believed: that government is best which governs least, and that human freedom and dignity are likeliest to thrive not when power is centralized and remote, but when it is diffuse, local, and modest.

Click Here to read the rest of the column.


Hello, 13
Bumping into a childhood crush brings adolescent intensity rushing back.

I was visiting my mom last weekend in the town I moved away from almost three decades ago. After our usual round of errands followed by a pizza lunch, I dashed into a nearby grocery store to buy her a mousetrap. While scanning the aisles, I heard a man calling my name. “Sandy?”

I turned toward the voice at the checkout. He was lanky, with a tousle of graying hair. After paying, he strolled toward me, shaking his head and chuckling to himself.

“I’m afraid I have no idea who you are,” I started to confess. But then, as he came closer, the years fell away from his face. “Dean?”

We didn’t quite know what to do. Shake hands? Hug? He was sweaty from working out, but a reunion with a childhood friend – OK, crush – after 28 years merited some kind of physical greeting. I took his hand and clutched it for a few awkward seconds.

We’d gone to school together until eighth grade, when he attended public high and I went across town to a private school. We might have seen each other a few times in church after that, but I don’t think we ever spoke again. Yet the connection, as we stood in front of a rack of suntan lotion, was as real as any unbroken friendship.

There is something about looking into your past through another person’s eyes, I kept thinking. There are bonds with the kids you grew up with, then eventually grew away from. You remain the custodians of one another’s earliest memories – your shared piece of history that, in many ways, shapes the person you become.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.



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